For such a small school district, Twin Rivers patrons have made a huge impact when facing closure by the Arkansas Department of Education.
Various patrons of the school district in a group of nearly 900 called " Save Our Twin Rivers School District" have raised money to finance the lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Education to help save their school district. he district, is comprised of both a Williford and an Oak Ridge Central campus. The issue unfolded after the resignation of Twin River's Superintendent David Gilliland who had not kept the school board updated on the plans for the state to potentially close both districts after numerous accreditation violations.
The Arkansas Department of Education made the decision to close the school at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. On Feb. 15, ADE Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell and his seven person panel spoke to an angry crowd at the public meeting.
Since the meeting, the group has made their voice heard all the way to Little Rock. They have conducted various fundraisers to pay for attorney fees to hire Little Rock attorney Theresa Caldwell.
On May 10, patrons went to Little Rock to meet with the Arkansas Department of Education regarding the impending closure of the schools. Members of the "Save Our Twin Rivers School District," family, teachers and friends picketed the capitol displaying signs such as one with the saying "Why is Gov. Beebe in support of closing small schools?"
The state Board of Education voted unanimously to dissolve the academically troubled Twin Rivers School District in July, and divide its students among six neighboring districts, something many believed was just a reiteration of the February meeting held at the Williford campus.
Students will be divided among the Highland, Hillcrest, Mammoth Spring, Maynard, Pocahontas and Sloan-Hendrix districts and can also apply to attend the Imboden Area Charter School.
The state took over the Twin Rivers District in February after the district failed to meet accreditation standards for two consecutive years, which many place blame on the former superintendant and school board.
Attorneys representing patrons of the district argued that the state board lacks legal authority to close an isolated school unless the local school board has first voted on the matter.
The attorneys and patrons of the district also argued that dissolving the district was not in the best interest of the students and would ultimately cause extremely long bus routes.
Tony Lowe, who has two children at Twin Rivers and testified in opposition to breaking up the district, said after the vote he was disappointed by the board members' decision.
"I invite them to come and take a tour on one of our bus routes and see how long the kids are on the bus," he said.
After a very disappointing day, patrons returned home.
On May 12, the group filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Board of Education. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court at Little Rock. The suit seeks an injunction ordering the state Education Department not to close the district down.
It claims that students in the district;s Williford and Oak Ridge Central schools will be denied a substantially equal opportunity to an adequate education "due to excessive transportation time if the Williford and Oak Ridge Central schools are closed."
For more in-depth coverage, see next week's edition of the Villager Journal.